Tag Archives: mustard

Roasted Tomato Croques

DSC_5061I can still remember the sublime experience of eating a Croque Monsieur for the first time.  A friend and I were on holiday traveling through Europe while studying abroad in England.  We took the Chunnel from London to Paris, where we made romantic plans to meet some other friends at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  I knew nothing about serious traveling, let alone traveling with a large backpack the size of another human strapped to your back.  In my 20-year old naiveté, I had no hesitations about traveling through 6 countries in a span of 3 weeks—none of which were English-speaking countries.  I bought my Berkeley Guide Europe ’97 (which still sits proudly on my bookshelf), tightened my rose-colored glasses, and away we went.
DSC_5032I think back on my time traveling around Europe from time and time, and am astounded at how casually I approached everything.  My friend and I arrived in Paris and thought it made the most sense to try and find lodging for the night.  I can’t imagine traveling anywhere in today’s world without first researching prices, neighborhoods, etc., and then BOOKING A PLACE TO STAY.  We nonchalantly began calling hostels listed in our guide from the Paris train station, and eventually found one within our price range.  After a decent night’s sleep (with my passport tied around my neck and tucked into my pajamas), we headed out to explore the City of Lights.
DSC_5040Of course, I was a poor student back then and didn’t really care that I had very little money to spend while traveling.  The important thing was the opportunity to be able to travel to these incredible countries, and not so much what we would be able to afford and not afford to do once we arrived.  My friend and I agreed that since we were on a limited budget, we would stick to eating fruit, baguettes and jam for the majority of our meals—all of which were extremely cheap at any market—and then treat ourselves to one meal per city (roughly every 2-3 days).  Again, for my 20-year-old self, this did not feel like a huge sacrifice.  And it had a huge upside!  Every REAL meal we ate tasted like manna from heaven.  Which brings me to my meal in Paris.  We had been walking around all day, seeing the sights and taking in the sounds while a light mist engulfed the city.  By dinnertime, we were wet, tired and hungry.  We had no idea where to go for a reasonably priced dinner in Paris.  We eventually stumbled upon a brasserie that looked warm, inviting, and best of all, cheap.  I ordered a Croque Monsieur, not because I knew what it was, but because I remember the description mentioning ham and cheese, which sounded familiar to my Midwestern palate.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it is essentially a ham and cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyère) sandwich on white bread.  However, what makes this dish stand out is the béchamel sauce that is added to the sandwich, as well as the extra cheese that is sprinkled on top.  The entire sandwich is then broiled for a minute or two to create a beautifully golden, crunchy crust.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.
DSC_5048I saw this recipe for Roasted Tomato Croques in a recent issue of Food & Wine and immediately tore it out to add to my recipe file.  I’m going to go ahead and call it a summer version of the original, and I really like the fact that it’s an open-face sandwich.  I think open-face sandwiches have virtue, if only because they better highlight the sandwich ingredients instead of hiding them between two pieces of bread.  The original recipe calls for straining the béchamel sauce, but I love onions, thyme, and rosemary, so I decided to leave them in for added flavor.  It also called for pickled peppers, which I did not have on hand (I’m no Peter Piper…sorry—had to), so I simply added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar to each slice of bread before roasting and it did the trick.  I took a bite of these beauties fresh out of the oven and was immediately transported back to that Paris brasserie.  Cue the Edith Piaf….
DSC_5049Roasted Tomato Croques
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: 15 open-face sandwiches

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 small thyme sprigs, plus 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. rosemary leaves
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt
black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
2 lbs. heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
15 1/2-inch thick slices of sourdough bread
1/2 lb. Gruyère cheese, shredded

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the onion, thyme sprigs, rosemary, mustard and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
2.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 3 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the milk until incorporated and bring to a boil.  Simmer the sauce over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened and no floury taste remains, 7 to 10 minutes.
3.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomato slices in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until softened and just starting to brown.
4.  Set a rack on another large rimmed baking sheet.  Arrange the bread in a single layer on the rack and top the slices evenly with the béchamel.  Using a spatula, lay the tomatoes on the béchamel.  Sprinkle with the Gruyère and thyme leaves.  Bake the croques for about 20 minutes, until the tops are browned and the bottoms are crisp.  Transfer to plates and serve hot.

Pistachio Apple Salad

DSC_4599You know that feeling when all the stars are aligned and things seem to be coming together?  I’ve been feeling that way recently.  Since my horrible depressive episode a few weeks ago, I have been working hard to get back to a good mental place.  Maybe it’s because that experience shook me so much, but I am willing myself to try and find meaning in as much as possible as I go throughout my day.  I also think having some perspective and cutting myself some slack is key to curbing my anxiety.  I volunteered for City Harvest a couple of weeks ago and was reminded that there are a lot less fortunate people than myself.  I know that for many people, every day is a struggle to simply make ends meet.  Some posit that one of the main reasons people volunteer is for the positive feelings that come as a byproduct of knowing you helped someone.  I believe this to be true, and I don’t think it’s a negative factor by any means.  Human beings need to connect; it’s what keeps us going.
DSC_4588In addition to volunteering, I had my first-ever Reiki treatment last week.  I have been curious about this Japanese practice for many years but just never tried it.  It was yet another experience my depression compelled me to seek out.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  For those of you who have never tried it, I would liken it to a cross between talk therapy and acupuncture.  It focuses on clearing your chakras, or energy pathways, which serve as a connection between the body and consciousness.  When one of our chakras becomes blocked, it can create physical or mental illness.  I had no idea what to expect during the actual session itself.  My Reiki master told me she would be placing her hands along my chakra points while I laid face up on the table.  Well, as soon as I positioned myself on the table and closed my eyes, water immediately began to drain from my eyes and didn’t stop until the session ended.  It was the strangest thing.  I definitely wasn’t crying, and yet I had a distinctive feeling that my body was trying to release something.  I took that as a good sign.
DSC_4594Despite the dreadful stomach virus I contracted over the weekend (I forgot how brutal those can be), my healthier mental state is creating healthier food cravings.  Yesterday I couldn’t stop thinking about avocados.  All day long, images of avocados kept popping into my head.  I’m sure whatever nutrients avocados possess, my body was simply craving.  That said, I opted for a turkey burger for dinner.  I did make this Pistachio Apple Salad for lunch yesterday and it was perfectly delicious.  There aren’t many salads that I want second helpings of, but this one is one of them.  It hits all of the major taste profiles: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami.  Because it calls for a Granny Smith apple, it’s not super sweet.  However, if you want to use something sweeter, I think dried figs would be a lovely substitute, as they pair beautifully with blue cheese and pistachios.  Making this salad took all of 7 minutes!  So no excuses, dear readers, for throwing together a quick, healthy lunch!

* I’m not sure which magazine I ripped this recipe out of years ago, so I searched online for something close to it.  I found the exact same recipe on Yummly, so I am including a link to that site in lieu of a magazine name.

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Pistachio Apple Salad
Adapted from Yummly

Yield:  4 side-dish servings

1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 of a large orange)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sweet mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups arugula
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts

1.  For dressing, whisk together orange juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and garlic; gradually whisk in oil until well blended.  Set aside to mellow flavors.
2.  For salad, divide greens among four salad plates.  Top with apple slices.  Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.
3.  Whisk dressing; drizzle over salads.

Salmon with Mustard Dill Sauce

DSCF2837

I am getting better at confronting the negative voices in my head, but some days it still takes all of my energy to challenge those thoughts and force the rational side of my brain to take the wheel.  Living with chronic depression is no walk in the park, but my therapist has been extremely helpful in teaching me how to manage it.  I am also an anxious person and I admittedly care too much about what others think of me.   Oh, and did I mention I have social anxiety?  I will often cancel on people if I’m not in a good headspace.  My thinking is, “Why should I have dinner with Theresa if I’m not going to be good company?”  This usually snowballs into beating myself up for allowing my state of mind to determine my social life.

I invited my mom and stepdad to come out for a visit while my husband was away for a couple of weeks.  The first few days without him went ok, but after awhile the days seemed to be getting longer instead of shorter.  But you know what helped?   Watching season one of Designing Women.  Ordering a Petey Melt.  Going to see Maria Bamford perform with a girlfriend.  Eating Ethiopian food.  Counting the days until my mom arrived.  There is something so innately comforting about having my mom around.  She was the first person to ever show me unconditional love, and I can’t remember her ever criticizing me.  Ever.  And I’ve made plenty of bad decisions in my life.  She has always been extremely supportive and is always sitting in the front row of my cheering section.  Having my mom here while my husband was in Europe kept the darkness at bay.  We ate lots of fantastic food, saw The Rockettes, and did a lot of walking around the city.
DSCF2831My parents left earlier this week and my husband has returned.  Seeing that he was in Geneva part of the time, he plied me with Swiss chocolates, naturally.   There were pralines, chocolate-covered almonds, marzipan, and bon bons to boot.  Oh how I love my husband.  Now back to reality.

I often make this salmon dish when I want something quick and easy.  I love mustard and I think it complements salmon beautifully.  The sauce is nice and tangy with a hint of spice from the mustard and garlic, which is the perfect foil for a fatty piece of fish.

DSCF2840

Salmon with Mustard-Dill Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup 2% greek yogurt
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4- 6 oz. salmon fillets with skin
1 clove garlic, minced

Preparation:
Whisk yogurt, dill, onion, mustard, salt and pepper in small bowl to blend.  Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place parchment paper on baking sheet.  Place salmon, skin side down, on prepared sheet.  Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper; spread with 1/3 cup sauce.  Bake salmon until just opaque in center, about 20 minutes.  Serve with remaining sauce.